The readings on which this sermon is based can be found at:

s159g16   Easter Day  27/3/2016

‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’   Luke 24:5

And yet the women met, in this seemingly ‘god-forsaken’ place, angels who pointed them in the right direction.   It was the women for whom any pretension to ritual purity was an irrelevancy meant that they could go and do what was respectful and needful for the body of Jesus.   In doing so it was they (rather than the male disciples who were nowhere to be found) who met the divine.

The risen Jesus was not to be found in the Temple by suitably tutored devotees, nor for any length of time among the assembled disciples closeted in their upper room or even by the sea-shore.   He is to be found elsewhere, by the inherently unclean, among our secular selves, among you and I in our ordinary day to day lives.   Jesus will be found by us as we are getting our hands dirty.

So Jesus is not conjured up to be present in our Eucharists; the risen Jesus is always elsewhere, when we get our hands dirty like these women of old who met the angels.   As I said for Lent 5: ‘time and again it is when we are on that road AWAY from orthodoxy that we meet the divine.  So in scripture we read of Saul on that road to Damascus confronted by the Lord, telling him that if he continues in his intention to persecute, he will be persecuting the Lord. (1)   We read of Peter led by the Lord step by step to the house of the gentile Cornelius. (2)  We hear the story of the traveller on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho who meets the Lord in the Good Samaritan rather than the priest or the Levite. (3)  We read of those grieving disciples on that road from Jerusalem to Emmaus meeting the risen Lord.’ (4)   

Indeed on that first Easter morn, the risen Jesus had already left on his journey away from Jerusalem and orthodoxy and into life.   The women and the disciples would have to hurry if they were ever to catch him up.   Do we not sense a divine urgency?

God will not be filibustered or delayed by the doubts and questionings of the church.   All the evidence is there, all the directions given; all we need to do is get out of our holy huddles and back into life.

One of the real sadnesses for the church in this modern age, as well as the one which promises most, is the general desire to be spiritual rather than religious.   Modern people perceive religion and church as dismissing their own spiritual experiences as inadequate, irrelevant, inappropriate.   The surfer who connects with creation on the waves; the artist who connects with life through their art; the politician with the ordering of modern society to benefit all; the doctor and nurse with doing everything to return a patient to health and back to the community to love and be loved; those who work in organisations, inevitably needing to work with and listen to others and hence loving far more really than the solitary preacher expecting everyone else to listen to and abide by his or her pearls of wisdom.  

I occasionally watch modern music videos featuring young people expressing themselves in song and surreal animation in attire which would be considered scandalous if worn to church; videos full of spontaneity, physicality, innovation, action, sexual intimacy and fun. (5)   My other watch is Aljazeera, with their coverage of news as it happens around the world, though this is so very often depressing. (6)  I realise why young people have abandoned the church when she denies them spontaneity, expression, novelty, autonomy, sexual intimacy and fun.   Which reminds me of how King David danced before the ark of God publicly with total abandon, earning the distain of his wife, Michal, because he was without knickers. :-) (7)   So King David can do this but Madonna et al can’t!  (8)   Interestingly the fan says having her top pulled down by Madonna exposing her breast ‘was the best moment of her life’. (9)

I have been led to look again at the passage about repentance in Luke: ‘At that very time there were some present who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.   He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans?   No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.’  (10)  It has come to me that the medical word for the theological term ‘repentance’ is ‘being discharged’.   It is discharge back into the community that means one is on the road to health.   One cannot be ‘well’ and remain in hospital.   Discharge is a sign of health.

The difficulty is that the church doesn’t want to discharge people; indeed quite the opposite, they want to keep people, which implies they need to be compliant and subservient.   They have a vested interest in keeping people feeling guilty, in keeping people sick.

And the harder the church keeps the claws in to retain people, any possibility of real communion diminishes.  And of course this applies in personal relationships as well as corporate relationships.

This makes the church’s pretended monopoly on spirituality problematic in the extreme, when it is founded on keeping people sick.   So Jesus said to those who criticised his associating with sinners: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners’ (11) - calling them out of a theocracy which was keeping them ill, compliant and subservient, denied spontaneity, expression, novelty, autonomy, sexual intimacy and fun.    I find it no wonder that ordinary folk question self-serving religion and why the orthodox engineered Jesus’ crucifixion.

I suspect that there is some correlation with repentance and being discharged with the concept of ‘closure’ after an injury too.

So when we say ‘Christ is risen’ this means that we are free to live and love, that we can embrace spontaneity, expression, novelty, autonomy, sexual intimacy and fun; as well as encourage and enable others to do so too.

1.  Acts 9:4
2.  Acts 9:32 - 10:34
3.  Luke 10:30f
4.  Luke 24:13f
7.  2 Samuel 6:14-16
10.  Luke 13.1-9
11.  Mark 2:17